On the slopes of Haleakala, looming above sandy beaches, trendy restaurants and resorts is Upcountry. With each visit, this part of Maui draws me in further.
Ocean snorkeling, sandcastles and stone massage in a hale on the beach wholly satisfy. Yet, Upcountry soothes the soul with its nature-in-the raw, laid back, porch-graced homes seemingly kissing the sky. Lush jacarandas dot curvy hillsides. The island country charm is pleasing. Over time, the region has attracted spirited characters and dreamers. This gem now boasts unique, mindful, sustainable growth and development worthy of exploration.
Our first “Road to Hana” adventure about a decade ago included a stop at Grandma’s Coffee House in Keokea. Tasting Paradise, a recipe book chock-full of greats from restaurants on five Hawaiian Islands, brought this fixture to our attention. Gratefully, we munched breakfast and left with sandwiches for a picnic along the route. Those Maui onions fragranced the ride as the sun grew high.
This year, Grandma’s was our first stop on a loosely planned journey to Upcountry. Again, the aromatic sandwiches were our choice. We inhaled these inside, adjacent to the bakery side of the kitchen. Sharing a huge macadamia nut cookie, we soaked up the friendly, casual atmosphere. Regulars drift in. Macadamia nut pesto pasta and Lilikoi cheesecake beckon from the refrigerated food case. Grandma seems to oversee her shop in spirit. “Her traditions continue,” declared the cashier, a distant relative. Grandma’s Maui Coffees, roasted since 1918, bear the essence of old Hawaii. A passion for the Hawaiian Coconut Coffee developed during our island stay, with just enough beans remaining for one teaser cup on the mainland.
Traveling hilly Omaopio Road in Kula to Surfing Goat Dairy, we spotted some of the namesakes and soon, their surfboards. As we headed to the familiar shack for a tasting, we recalled some of our previous favorites (“Udderly Delicious” gourmet Chevre and “Lilikoi Quark”) and sampled new. We purchased the “Diabolic,” ripened and aged 3 months with jalapeños, Thai dragon chilies, Bhudda Hand citron, Malabar peppercorns, in olive oil with garlic. Populations have escalated over the past 20 months to 185 goats and 25 human employees. Children and families can check out the goats on this working dairy. Surfing Goat claims “Da Feta Mo’ Betta!” We knowingly gravitated to ono salads enhanced with Surfing Goat cheeses (and sensational Kula greens!) on Maui restaurant menus.